ARTICLE 19 welcomes EU Commissioner Thierry Breton’s confirmation that the Digital Services Act (DSA) does not provide justification for the arbitrary blocking of online platforms and that any suspension of services must only be a last resort measure, and strictly in line with international human rights and due process safeguards.
On 26 July 2023, ARTICLE 19 together with 67 partner organisations wrote to the European Commissioner for the Internal Market, Thierry Breton requesting that he clarify comments that the Digital Services Act (DSA) provides for the possibility of shutting down online platforms as a sanction for failing to remove “hateful content”.
The following day, 27 July 2023, Commissioner Breton responded to Access Now (which led the drafting of the initial letter) and the other signatory civil society organisations. ARTICLE 19 welcomes Commissioner Breton’s prompt response and clarification of several key concerns expressed by the civil society. In his reply, Commissioner Breton:
- Confirms that the DSA does not provide justification for the arbitrary blocking of online platforms and DSA enforcement will always abide by democratic processes, the rule of law and prescribed due process safeguards.
- Provides reaffirmation that Europe firmly opposes decisions where content, services, and applications are blocked or degraded on an arbitrary and unjustified basis.
- Emphasises the need for proportionate sanctions in accordance with the level of a platform’s misbehaviour including that a “temporary suspension or restriction of access to the service” can only occur as a last resort “in the most far-reaching situations” citing incitement to violence or manslaughter as examples.
- Confirms that any measures which lead to a suspension of services must follow due process in accordance with national laws, international law and the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights.
ARTICLE 19 has long argued that EU legislation, such as the DSA, can have impact outside of the EU’s borders, as policymakers around the world look to it for examples on how to regulate the digital space (see Brazil’s ‘Bill Regulating Digital Platforms’).
In this context, Breton’s clarifications are of utmost importance: the DSA is a regulation designed to protect rights, not provide tools for censorship. We will continue to closely monitor the EU’s actions in enforcement of the DSA to ensure that they live up to this promise.